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Hacking Elance: How I Made Over $20,000 in 4 Weeks Doing Web Design

Hacking Elance: How I Made Over $20,000 in 4 Weeks Doing Web Design

At 24, I quit my dead-end restaurant job and launched a SAT test prep company. Things were going great and business was going well, but preparing students for a comprehensive exam is no easy task: it’s actually quite exhausting. Gradually I began to wonder if there was anything I could do that would:

a.) Allow me to work remotely, so I could take my work with me and have much more freedom.

b.) Pay me more money in less time.

I thought about it for a few weeks, and then it came to me!

“Hey, I can make a basic website. Maybe I can make money doing that. Then I can just stay at home.”

I didn’t really know where to start, so I just opened up an account on Elance to see if I could start pulling clients. I knew I could be a decent web designer if I just could figure out how to leverage myself and be seen in the crowded marketplace. That, my friends, was only half the battle.

As you read through this guide, think about it from your own perspective, with your own skills in mind. Web design is just an example/placeholder that can be changed out for almost any other skill set that you choose to leverage.

Here’s the breakdown:

It’s not as easy as showing up

Outsourcing is one of the biggest challenges facing Americans in the growing international workforce. In every field, from manufacturing to technology, someone with a comparable (or superior) skill set is willing to do the same work as you for drastically lower cost. It’s just the way things are these days. The minute I logged on to Elance, I was met with the crushing realization that there were literally over 200,000 other freelance designers (most of whom were more skilled), all looking for the same jobs at the same time.

This was going to be much harder than I thought.

How was I going to get clients when I was competing with all the freelance designers in the world, not on the value and quality I provided , but with price? I couldn’t compete with their low fees: my rent is $1,100, so I really couldn’t afford to spend hours on a $300 website. I was at a loss.

And then, it occurred to me: I needed to become a “premium service provider”. Is Mercedes Benz bashful about charging $80,000 for an E-Class? I think not. They are widely perceived as a luxury brand and come with ridiculous customer service to justify their price point.  That’s the bracket I needed to aim for. But was it even possible? Could I even do something like that on Elance? I hoped so.

First, I needed to test my assumptions. Think about how you can apply testing to your unique situation.

Setting up the test

I designed a test to answer two primary questions:

  1. “Exactly what strategies do my successful competitors use to stand out in the crowd?”
  2. “How can I completely obliterate them by being ridiculously overprepared?”

Testing assumptions had worked pretty well for me in setting up the test prep endeavor—setting up small classes first, tweaking them and seeing what worked—but until I actually went out there and did it, I didn’t truly understand the value of feedback. Now I know that feedback is literally the difference between success and failure. Testing allows you to determine if a business will work without risking failure.

Here’s how I structured the test:

1.) I set up a dummy account in order to create a fake posting looking for web developers. The purpose behind this was to find out exactly what types of proposals other developers were submitting. Here’s what the posting looked like:

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 2.25.03 PM

     

    2.) None of the copy in the ad is random: everything has a strategic purpose, intended to find something out about my competition. A few tactical things to notice here:

    • The budget is high. According to Elance stats, most jobs go for around $1,000 across the board, so why put the price point so high? I wanted to attract the best possible candidates. What I’ve found both anecdotally and through personal experience is that high prices often scare off underperformers. It’s part of the whole “the cream rises to the top” mentality—I was curious about which contractors identified themselves as “worthy” of a $10,000 job, and see what they had to offer. Theoretically, these should be the best proposals.
    • The job is marked as “fixed price”—I wanted to see what rates they would throw at me and what negotiation tactics they would use.
    • I was very clear with my needs and the range of skill sets required to do the job. Ironically, these are the skill sets that I had and was trying to leverage, so I was looking for people with identical credentials to see what I was up against.

    I sat back and popped a bag of Orville Redenbacher as things began to get interesting.

    The results are in…

    Within 30 minutes, I received 71 proposals from all over the world. All things being equal, this means that each applicant had a 1.4% chance of being hired. Of course, my goal was to figure out how to shift these odds dramatically, but more on that later.

    Now it’s time to put ourselves in the shoes of a prospective client. Just based on initial impressions, before reading any of the actual proposals that were submitted, here are my observations (be sure to look at the breakdown by region):

    Advertising

    1. The lion’s share (50+%) of the bids were from India and South Asia
    2. North American applicants constituted about 25% of the bids
    3. The rest of the world made up the last 25%

    Now compare the sample data above with the lifetime hiring data provided by Elance:

    Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 3.04.42 PM

      With over 1.5 million jobs awarded since the site’s inception, North America completely blows every other country off the map. The next closest is Australia, with barely over 150,000 jobs awarded. If we take a step back and think about what this means, it’s pretty easy to spot an imbalance between the types of people applying for jobs, and the ones doing the hiring.

      English-speaking Americans do (mostly) all the hiring, and every other country does (almost) all the labor. It’s actually a pretty familiar pattern, don’t you think?

      Native English speakers WANT to work with other English speakers who can easily understand their needs. The problem most American freelancers run into on Elance is that since their rates are naturally higher due cost of living, they miss out on jobs by getting ruthlessly lowballed by foreigners using the volume approach.

      I knew that the Americans doing the hiring WANTED to hire other Americans, but were resistant to higher American prices; I was attempting to find out how could I remove this objection and make price a non-issue.

      Reading the proposals

      I’d already learned a ton of information just looking at the distribution curve of applicants, but now it was time to do the actual dirty work—reading the proposals. Remember my first objective: figure out exactly what the successful competition was doing.

      When I opened my Elance inbox, the first feelings I had were those of nausea. I knew right away that I didn’t want to and WASN’T going to read through all 71 proposals—I just couldn’t—but I did notice certain elements of proposals that made them stand out. Here’s what I found that helped me narrow down which ones I would even bother reading:

      1. “Sponsored Proposals”: freelancers can buy monthly credits, which they use to be able to submit more proposals. These credits can also buy a “Sponsored Proposal” which sticks to the top of the page. No matter how many bids the job gets, their proposal will stay at the top, and only 3 contractors per job may be sponsored. I always looked at these for two reasons: First, I knew they were already making a small investment in me by paying to show their bid. Second, with almost 100 proposals to sift through, it was impossible to forget them.
      2. Copy/Pitch: If they hooked me in the first line or two of their proposal with something interesting, I’d read the whole thing. This got harder as I went along, so it helped if they were one of the first 20 applicants or so.
      3. Specific reference to the project I posted, not a generic copy-paste job. This also gave me a good idea of how proficient they were at English. I just don’t feel like dealing with a communication barrier.
      4. Price point: This is important, but for different reasons than you may expect. If someone was ridiculously low, I’d instantly forget about them. I’m not looking for bottom feeder prices and bottom feeder results. I can only speak for myself, but I suspect I’m not the only one. Lowballing me won’t work. High prices, on the other hand, would sometimes catch my eye, first as more of an “are they out of their mind”? But more often than not, it would actually draw me to their pitch, then their profile to see if they met the other criteria listed above. Even if I wasn’t prepared to spend that much, it got my attention. It made me wonder what makes them so special; this realization was key when I was devising my strategy later.
      5. Skill set: I didn’t think this would be the last thing I looked at, but it was. Surprisingly, I only considered people’s skills after they passed the other 4 criteria.

      Just for fun, here are some of the worst proposals I got (with some notes):

      Elance 1

        This guy shot me TWO messages:

        Elance 2

          This girl… sweet, but no thanks:

          Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 4.17.57 PM

            Once I applied all of these criteria, my pool of applicants was cut down significantly from an original pool of 71, to 10-12 who really had all the right qualities to take the project and run with it.

            So how was I supposed to choose between all those seemingly equally-qualified candidates and decide who I was going to award the job to?

            Personal interaction—they had to sell me.

            I found that when it came down to it, if everyone had similar qualifications, so the only determining factor I could use to make a decision was personality. I had to actually LIKE the person. To LIKE someone, I need to feel like I have a relationship with them, even if I’ve just met them. Most applicants didn’t take my feelings into account and certainly didn’t seem to care about building a relationship. I’m not just a piece of man-meat: I have feelings too.

            Once I realized that the secret to hiring someone else was whether I liked them or not, I immediately got to work creating a strategy for my own campaign designed with one purpose only: to make myself completely irresistible to prospective clients as quickly as possible.

            Identifying which clients to pitch a proposal to

            Before I spent time and energy pitching randomly to every client that posted a job, I took time to narrow down the best candidates

            I’m not just looking for any client; I’m looking for the right client. That’s a subtle distinction, but it’s very important. I needed to find postings that showed evidence of reliable behavior on behalf of the client. I also needed to see indicators that I’d get the price I was looking for. Typically, I don’t find it worth my time to do a website for any less than $1,000. Here are some examples of ideal candidates that I would pitch to, along with notes:

            Example 1:

            Advertising

            Job-example-1-1024x565

              Example 2:

              Screen-Shot-2013-04-30-at-12.21.09-PM

                Example 3:

                example-2

                  Example 4:

                  example-4

                    Doing client research

                    After I selected who I was going to pitch to, I did detailed research so that I could approach them correctly.

                    Client history/research:

                    1.) Purchase history:

                    • Look for clients who have already used Elance frequently and have spent a decent amount of money.
                    • 3 and 4 green dots are a good indicator that they are serious buyers.

                    2.) Feedback history (extremely important):

                    If they have already purchased on Elance and have given feedback/reviews on past freelancers, this information is GOLDEN. Go to the profile of the potential client and look for information that will help you personalize the proposal as much as possible.

                    • Things they liked about past freelancers
                    • Complaints about past freelancers

                    3.) After you determine what they think about past freelancers, look for other personal details.

                    • Personal details to looks for:
                    • Their name
                    • Profession
                    • Location
                    • Likes/dislikes
                    • Hobbies
                    • Any other relevant info

                    Use this information to create a completely customized proposal. In your pitch, casually throw in information that’s highly relevant to them, but doesn’t seem like you’re doing it on purpose.

                    Making myself irresistible by being WAY overprepared

                    The basic premise of the next step is to create a personalized presentation for the prospective client that shows you’ve taken their needs into careful consideration, then proactively come up with solutions to their problems. Now, you might think that since there’s no physical meeting between you and the prospective client, this type of technique wouldn’t be applicable. Dead wrong.

                    You know what I noticed after reviewing all the pitches I received during my test? There was not ONE video proposal. Not a single one. I don’t know why this is. Maybe people aren’t comfortable in front of the camera, or maybe nobody’s thought of it (in which case, I’m shooting myself in the foot with this article).

                    Either way, since I’d determined that building a relationship was the fastest way to book a job, and face-to-face is the fastest way to build a relationship, I started testing video proposals.

                    Holy shit. The results were insane.

                    But first, the formula:

                    Creating the video pitches: How to develop the right “feel” for your video submissions:

                    People love stories, so you must create a story that they feel emotionally connected to. As you progress, you will find the right groove and your own personal narrativethis basic framework is a great starting place, and eventually you can improvise as you become more comfortable.

                    Creating the story arc:

                    a.) Introduction

                    • “My name (real or nickname or fake – doesn’t matter)”
                    • “I’m the lead developer of XYZ company”
                    • “I’m not part of some ‘big fancy firm'”
                    • “I had my first “real” job, hated it, decided to form my own company doing what I love.”

                    b.) How to build comfort and familiarity

                    • Pretend that you’re talking to them over a lunch meeting. Be cool and at ease.
                    • “I see you’re working on a _______ type of website. That’s really cool because _________(Insert relevant personal experience, even if it’s a stretch. It’s all about creating a compelling story.)”
                    • Use customer research and feedback they’ve given to other freelancers to casually talk about some of your desirable characteristics—use exact wording from their profile page if possible. Go through several reviews.

                    For instance, if you go to the client’s profile page and see something like THIS:

                    Advertising

                    Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 12.37.06 PM

                      You might want to Say something like THIS in your narrative:

                      “I guess one of the things we love best about doing this type of work is getting clients ‘unstuck’. Sometimes you just need reliable pros who really undertand your needs to step in and get amazing work done quickly. That’s the name of the game here at XYZ. We want to make working together again a no-brainer!”

                      As you can see, the bold text shows where I used the client’s exact wording again in the pitch process. With this type of language, you don’t even need to sell them; you’re speaking to them in their own voice.

                      c.) Benefits and invitation to learn more:

                      The idea of the entire process is a “soft sell”. You’ll never mention pricing or any type of money in the initial pitch. You must create the value first.

                      After you’ve noted the specific features they are looking for in their site, make sure to mention that we excel at those things, and a handful of others when appropriate. I like to use rich, colorful product descriptions to really make people feel the pull. You can mention things like:

                      • “All the sites we build are fully responsive for all devices”
                      • “Breathtaking, beautiful custom CSS (or PHP/Java/whatever is appropriate for the posting)”
                      • “Easy-to-manage CMS that requires little maintenance”
                      • “SEO/Conversion-optimized”
                      • Anything else that fits with the scope of their project that we can fulfill. Keep it ethical, but don’t hold back.
                      • Use descriptive words like: “beautiful, flowing, clean, responsive, sexy, stunning” and paint the picture.

                      As you close, keep the lines of communication open and leave the ball in their court by saying things like:

                      • “Let’s keep the conversation going—I’d love to hear more about what you’re working on.”
                      • Even if we don’t end up working together, maybe I can help point you in the right direction or answer some questions. I’m at the computer all day anyway!”
                      • “Thanks for sharing some screen time with me—I look forward to talking soon.”

                      As you get better, you’ll develop your own style; this is just a framework.

                      This type of soft close usually gets at least some feedback and you can feel them out to see if they are good to work with. It also comes off as very secure—you’re not begging for the job here. By suggesting that you are completely comfortable with helping “even if we don’t end up working together” it makes you sound like you don’t need to do the work; you just want to.

                      Below are 3 different examples of successful pitches I’ve made that resulted in sales of over $1,000 each. Some of these videos run a little long, but each video should only be between 2:30 and 3:30 max! I’ve become so effective that these days that some of my videos are around 90 seconds long. Remember that it’s not about length, it’s about delivery. Notice the customization and approach I took to understanding the specific clients needs and the personal approach I took by creating a story arc. The goal isn’t to copy what I said, but to think about how you can create something similar using your own story. Remember, no matter what field you’re in, it’s all about creating a relationship with the potential customer.:

                      What your pitch on Elance should look like:

                      At this point you’ve picked out your prospect, done your research and shot the quick video.

                      Here are some samples of how I word the actual proposals in the Elance platform. It’s pretty simple and straight-forward, but I’ve also developed what appears to be a winning formula.

                      sample 2

                        Sometimes you can just keep it simple and get straight to the point, like in this example:

                        proposal-shot-2

                          The negotiation process and the $23,700 results

                          Closing the deals

                          After they contact you, it’s your job to reel them in using the same charismatic personality that attracted them in the first place. They will most likely have one or two of a few common questions. Whatever your specific field of expertise is, think about possible objections from potential clients WAY AHEAD of time. Really put yourself in their shoes and create a “If they say this, I’ll say that” map in your head. Be so ridiculously overprepared to answer objections that they’re left completely awestruck and ready to buy.

                          Here are the 3 most common barriers I ran into trying to close the deal.

                          1.) Client: “I see you’re new on Elance—are you a new company?”

                          “We’re not a new company; we get most of our business from referrals stemming from our old jobs in corporate, but we’ve decided to branch out and try online platforms like Elance. This isn’t our first rodeo.”

                          Insert some details from the personalized story you told in your intro video, then refer them back to the portfolio website and reassure them that your work is awesome.

                          2.) Client: “Why should I pick you when I can get the work outsourced for cheaper?”

                          Advertising

                          It can be a shorter variation of this, but this is how I explain it:

                          “You’re right, we’re not the cheapest firm on Elance, and we battle with getting our legs cut out from under us every single day by good firms in India and Asia who do the work for a fraction of a price. If you’re in a bind and you’re basing your decision solely on price, we might not be the right fit for you, but we see design a little differently. To us, creating a design is like two people working on a painting at the same time: both of you want the painting to come out looking like a masterpiece, both of you want to create something beautiful… but there’s a huge communication gap there. After all, you are two very different people, with different visions. Yes, we’re masters at design work, but where we really excel, where we really shine, is taking your ideas and interpreting them—understanding them and translating them onto the page, using our expertise, so that the end result looks like it came not from two people, but directly from your imagination. It’s almost as if we’re an extension of your creativity, not just outside numbskulls fumbling to get things right. I don’t think you can expect that perspective from anybody who is going to lowball you.”

                          3.) Dealing with further price resistance

                          If they are still hesitant to purchase at the lowest price you offer (mine is $750 rock bottom), be understanding and little flexible, while still demonstrating your confidence. This is a sample script I’ve used in the past:

                          “Typically speaking we work in a “our price is our price” type of mindset. This has come from a few years of working with dozens of different individuals and organizations who want all want the same service (design, implementation, optimization) and the same high level of service, but all at different prices.

                          It get’s very tricky and in the end 1 of 2 things usually happens: either you start becoming too “flexible” with your prices, stop considering time/effort and end up working yourself into the $12/hour bracket with ten low budget projects OR you do essentially the same services for two different people, while charging one person $500 and the next person $1000, and those people talk.

                          Not good.

                          Because of that, we are pretty firm. Our base price is always $995. We’d add the Elance fees of 8.75% on to that to protect our costs.

                          Now, that being said, I know you’re a startup, don’t have unlimited cash and need to get the most value for your money. I also appreciate you considering us because, let’s face it: there a lot of people overseas willing to do this work cheaply, although that cheapness would probably show! Totally get it.

                          So, we would be willing to break the price up and space out payments to lessen the financial burden on you over a period over a period of 4-6 weeks in installments.”

                          Bottom line: you have to be the same person in your messages that you were in your video. Upbeat, engaged, causal.

                          The results:

                          I’ve been getting as high as a 70% response rate from prospective clients using all the elements above, and this is a very good thing. Since there are so many people applying for many of these jobs, it is a good sign just to be contacted.

                          Over the course of a month, I was able to land 7 jobs, one of which was a $15,000 retainer just to do occasional touch ups. All in all, I cleared about $24,000. I kept meticulous track of how the proposals were working, so that I could track and tweak. After a certain point, I had to stop taking clients because the workload was too high. Here’s a shot of my Excel sreadsheet from the first 2 weeks. I may not have always booked the job, but even getting a response means I’m doing the right thing:

                          Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 6.39.08 PM

                            The Takeaway

                            So what did I learn from all this?

                            First, I learned the value of testing, testing, testing. When you’re trying to diagnose a problem with a system, it’s literally impossible to guess the right course of action by just staring at the outside machinery. You have to dig deep and probe the inner workings so that you can validate your assumptions. If something doesn’t work, tweak it.

                            Finally, I was reminded how powerful human interaction can be. In the sea of noise and confusion that is the internet, it’s still very possible to get noticed and, as a result, make a living. Usually the only way to do this is to spark an interaction that leads to a relationship. Video is a simple way to leverage that.

                            I hope this guide serves you well. There’s plenty of room out there for all of us, so get to work!

                            Your opportunity: how to use this information

                            Well, the first obvious way you can use this information is just to copy what I did. If you use this method on Elance, or in any other remote freelance capacity, it WILL WORK. I’ve gotten enough responses from readers and friends to validate this.

                            I also want you to think about the bigger questions that this raises, however, and how they apply to you:

                            • Is there an untapped resource inside you that has value, that other people will pay for? If you haven’t tried to leverage it before, why not?
                            • How could you implement simple tests like the ones above to determine if your idea is viable?
                            • What simple step can you take TOMORROW to get your first test up and running?
                            • Are you ready to seize your opportunity immediately and stop waiting for somebody to give you permission to start your own shit?

                            Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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                            Worry Is a Vicious Murderer Hacking Elance: How I Made Over $20,000 in 4 Weeks Doing Web Design Notes to a Discontented Generation Y 3 Dumbass Start-up Mistakes That You’re Probably Making

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                            Last Updated on August 20, 2019

                            How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

                            How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

                            Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

                            In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

                            5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

                            Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

                            1. Be Clear About the Objectives

                            Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

                            It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

                            Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

                            2. Keep Them Realistic

                            It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

                            It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

                            3. Account for Inflation

                            Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

                            Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

                            For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

                            4. Short Term vs Long Term

                            Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

                            As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

                            More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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                            5. To Each to His Own

                            The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

                            It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

                            By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

                            11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

                            Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

                            • Ensuring healthy savings
                            • Making smart investments

                            You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

                            Ensuring Healthy Savings

                            Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

                            This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

                            1. Track Expenses

                            The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

                            Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

                            2. Pay Yourself First

                            Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

                            Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

                            The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

                            Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

                            3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

                            Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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                            Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

                            At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

                            Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

                            You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

                            4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

                            Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

                            If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

                            Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

                            All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

                            5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

                            In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

                            Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

                            Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

                            If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

                            If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

                            So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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                            6. Talk About It

                            Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

                            Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

                            7. Maintain a Journal

                            For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

                            So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

                            Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

                            When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

                            At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

                            Making Smart Investments

                            Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

                            8. Consult a Financial Advisor

                            Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

                            Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

                            9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

                            Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

                            Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

                            Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

                            It is here where that classification will help.

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                            So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

                            10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

                            Einstein once remarked about compounding,

                            Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

                            So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

                            Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

                            11. Measure, Measure, Measure

                            All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

                            If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

                            If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

                            Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

                            The Bottom Line

                            This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

                            As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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